The Sun Temple, Modhera (Gujarat) was built in 1026 AD by King Bhimdev of the Solanki dynasty and is dedicated to Lord Surya, the Sun God of Hinduism. It is akin to the Konark Sun Temple of Orissa. One more sun temple is at Martand in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Modhera sun temple is situated on the bank of the river Pushpavati, 25 km from Mehsana and 102 km from Ahmedabad.
According to the Skanda Purana and Brahma Purana, the areas near Modhera were known during ancient days as Dharmaranya (literally meaning the forest of righteousness). According to these Puranas, Lord Rama, after defeating Ravana, asked sage Vasistha to show him a place of pilgrimage where he could go and purify himself from the sin of Brahma-hatya (the sin of killing a Brahmin, because Ravana was a Brahmin by birth). Sage Vasistha showed him Dharmaranya, which was near the modern town of Modhera. In the Dharmaranya, he settled at a village Modherak and performed a yagna there. Thereafter he established a village and named it Sitapur. This village is about 8 km from Becharaji Modherak village and it subsequently came to be known as Modhera.
The Sun Temple was built by Raja Bhimdev I of Solanki Dynasty in AD 1026. This was the time when Somnath and the adjoining area was plundered by Mahmud Ghazni and reeled under the effects of his invasion. The Solankis, however, regained much of their lost power and splendour. Anahilvad Patan, the Solanki capital, was restored to glory. Royalty and traders jointly contributed to build grand temples.
Solankis were considered to be Suryavanshis, or descendants of Sun god. The temple was so designed that the first rays of the sun fell on the image of Surya, the Sun God, at the time equinoxes.
The temple is partially in ruins after it was also finally destroyed by the Allauddin Khilji.
However, enough has remained of the temple to convey its grandeur.
The Sun temple is of a unique architecture of its own kind.
The temple comprises three separate but axially-aligned and integrated elements.
- Surya Kund, which is an intricately carved, stepped tank named after Sun god Surya.
- Sabha Mandap, which is a hall used for religious gatherings and conferences.
- Guda Mandap, i.e. sanctum sanctorum, which once housed the idol of Sun God.
This is a massive rectangular stepped tank. A 100 sq meter rectangular pond believed to be used to store pure water. Devotees were required to perform ceremonial ablutions here before worshiping the Sun God.
108 miniature shrines are carved in between the steps inside the tank. 108 is a number considered to be auspicious by Hindus.
Huge ornamental arch called Toran leads one to Sabha Mandap literally meaning assembly hall.
This hall of religious gatherings is a magnificent pillared hall. It is open from all sides and has 52 intricately carved pillars. The carvings depict various scenes from the Hindu epics of Ramayan, Mahabharat and Krishna Lila (i.e. story of lord Krishna).
Between the Sabha Mandapa and the sanctum sanctorum is a beautiful hall with pillars and arches, whose facade has been renovated and partially redone, and the walls have 12 niches showing the different aspects of the Sun God in each month.
This is also called the main temple or the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. It is based on a lotus-base plinth. It was designed such that the rays of the rising and setting sun on the day of equinox, fell on the bejeweled idol built by the Solankis in honour of their ancestral God. It was plundered by Mahmud Gazni.
Modhera Dance Festival
The Modhera dance festival is scheduled to be held during the third week of January every year, after the festival of Uttarayan for three days in the backdrop of the Sun temple.
The objective is to present classical dance forms in an atmosphere they were originally presented in. The festival is organised by the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat.
photo courtesy by Vishal Solanki